Whether you have already seen or plan to see Saving Face, we invite you to read these FAQs in order to more fully understand the complexity of factors surrounding acid violence as a worldwide human rights violation.
What is Acid Violence?
Acid violence is the deliberate use of acid to attack another human being. It is estimated that some 80 percent of victims are women and almost 40 percent are under the age of 18. Attackers often target the head and face in order to maim, disfigure and blind. The act rarely kills but causes severe physical, psychological and social scarring, and victims are often left with no legal recourse, limited access to medical or psychological assistance, and without the means to support themselves.
Acid violence is a worldwide phenomenon that is not restricted to a particular race, religion or geographical location. It occurs in many countries in South-East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the West Indies, and the Middle East. Recently attacks have emerged in other regions including attacks in the U.K. and the United States. Acid attacks are most common in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In many countries acid attacks constitute a “hidden” form of violence against women and children that often goes unreported even though the visible signs of the crime are difficult to overlook.
Why does it occur?
Victims of acid violence are attacked for many reasons, and the patterns of attack vary from country to country. Sometimes they result from domestic or land disputes, dowry demands or a violent act of revenge to a young girl or woman spurning sexual advances or rejecting a marriage proposal. While it is reprehensible when acid violence impact men and boys, it is important to recognize that acid attacks are a form of gender-based violence because the violence disproportionately impacts women.
Acid attacks, like other forms of violence against women, are not random or natural phenomena. Rather, they are social phenomena deeply embedded in a gender order that has historically privileged patriarchal control over women and justified the use of violence to “keep women in their places.” In many countries, women are victims of acid attacks when they allegedly or actually transgress hegemonic gender norms and roles that discriminate against women and keep them in subordinated positions.
Acid violence perpetuates gender inequality and discrimination. Survivors often face marginalization from society after the attack. Additionally acid violence creates overall fear among women in the community. Some may feel that they would be attacked if they failed to conform to traditional subordinate gender roles and that the perpetrator would not be punished.
How does it occur?
The availability of acids, such as Nitric or Sulphuric Acid used in manufacturing and processing cotton and rubber, is a leading cause of attacks. Weak rule of law, political corruption and cultural inequalities between genders have contributed to increasing incidents of acid violence in many countries.
What can be done to stop acid violence?
Because acid violence is primarily gender-based, it reflects and perpetuates the inequality of women in society and is prohibited by international law. To eradicate acid violence, governments must address its root causes—inequality and discrimination against women, provide redress to victims, including compensation for healthcare costs, limit the availability of acid, appropriately punish perpetrators and support women’s empowerment to enhance their self-confidence and ability to sustain independent livelihoods.
Supporting and advocating on behalf of NGO’s working to support survivors and end acid violence in their communities is also a critical and immediate response. A list of some of these international organizations are included on the NGO Partners page and we encourage you to learn more.
(Portions of the FAQ section were excerpted from Acid Survivors Trust International http://www.acidviolence.org and Combating Acid Violence in Bangladesh, India and Cambodia, Report by the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, the Committee on International Human Rights of the New York City Bar Association, the Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic, and the Virtue Foundation, 2011.)